Louis van Gaal accepted Manchester United’s display “was not our best performance” as his side laboured to a 1-0 win over doomed Aston Villa.
The defeat for Villa confirms their relegation from the Premier League after a torrid season, but still the visitors could have taken a point after United failed to kill off Eric Black’s side.
In the end, Marcus Rashford’s first-half strike kept the heat on neighbours Manchester City in the race for fourth place but Van Gaal was willing to admit that his side were off-colour.
“It was not our best performance, of course, you have seen it for yourself,” the manager told MUTV. “I think we played too slowly and it was also difficult as they were playing very defensively and very compact.
“So then you need quicker play, quicker ball-speed and so on.
“In the first half we created enough chances to finish with two goals and then the motivation also with the players of Villa shall be less and the game is more easy.
“It is not like that though – we didn’t finish and, at the end, could have drawn which is not good.”
Rashford notched his seventh senior goal for the goal in 12 appearances when he turned in Antonio Valencia’s cut-back on 32 minutes, and Van Gaal was impressed with his 18-year-old centre-forward.
“It was also good movement, I have to say, as he runs for the first ball and then cut off because there was no space for that.
“Antonio Valencia was very good to see that and Rashford scored a very good and important goal.”
Van Gaal opted to start Wayne Rooney for the first time since his return from a knee injury and the manager was satisfied with his captain, who played a key role in the move that led to the winning goal.
“That pass [in the build-up to Rashford’s goal] was fantastic,” said Van Gaal. “He did a lot of switches.
“I think he played a very good first half but, in the second half, you could see he was tired. He was losing the ball but that’s also logical when you’re not playing for two months and not training for two months. It is difficult to adapt to the rhythm of the Premier League.”